In a surprising break with other former Bush Administration officials, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today that waterboarding was not used to torture prisoners at the US facility at Guantanamo Bay.
“Our critics have it totally wrong. My stars, waterboarding would be illegal. The way we put pressure on terror suspects was to deny them water. See? Totally different,” the former Pentagon chief told reporters.
Rumsfeld’s startling assertion is at odds with statements by former vice president Dick Cheney, former attorney general Michael Mukasey, former CIA director Michael Hayden, and others, all who have admitted that waterboarding was used at the Guantanamo facility.
Moreover, they say Justice Department memos made waterboarding legal, classifying the practice as ‘enhanced interrogation.’
But Rumsfeld said such legal distinctions are not necessary. “We used waterboarding to keep prisoners well-hydrated after depriving them of drinking water, and not as an enhanced interrogation technique.”
“The result isn’t torture, it’s thirst. Harmless. Good heavens, I get thirsty every day,” said Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld demanded release of a 2003 Justice Department memo that established a legal dehydration policy. “It says that if you don’t let someone have water, they’re going to get dehydrated. There was an entire appendix devoted to celebrity dehydration, like Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse.”
“So after days of deprivation but before the point of dehydration, we would give the detainees water. A lot of water. Cheese and biscuits, one time we rehydrated Kaleed Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in a month,” Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld denied Amnesty International accusations that this is really waterboarding in disguise, calling the organization misinformed.
“When they get this water, are they lying on a board? Sure. With a cloth over their faces? Could be. But Sweet Betsy, if that’s illegal you can go right ahead and make Perrier, lumber yards, and Jo-Ann Fabrics illegal too,” he said.